Lack of preparation marks Rouse initiative
Blame for village infighting and Columbia residents' confusion about the proposed density increase should be placed squarely on the Rouse Company. Instead of preparing a plan for how the increased density will be placed on available sites in Columbia and especially in town center, the Rouse Company strategy was to say the minimum. The shame is that village representatives and the council accepted this complete lack of information.
In the original planning of Columbia before zoning was granted for its development, plans were made public and displayed. The process was open. Apparently planning and openness is a concept foreign to today's Rouse Company. What they should have done and still must do for town center is to present a map and supporting data clearly showing the available development sites, including each site's acreage, vehicle and pedestrian access points, wooded areas to be preserved, developable land and acreage, proposed land uses and density and a projected schedule. In addition traffic analyses and economic benefits should be presented.
Clearly the open pavilion will be incompatible with proposed residential development on the "crescent site." Although replacing the open air pavilion with an enclosed theater is a neat idea, it is not a simple thing to implement from both a business and construction point of view.
Again, what is the plan? This is the kind of planning information every community receives today and needs to make informed decisions. Why not in Columbia? I am in conceptual favor of the density increase, but the zoning decision should be put on hold until the Rouse Company presents a plan as outlined above.
Robert Tennenbaum, AIA, AICP
Dignity disappears in Columbia Council
In recent years, the Columbia Association adopted the "CA Board/Council Values" to substitute civility for dissent or debate. They print this on the back of each meeting agenda. Robert's Rules of Order, which have ensured controlled exchanges of ideas in most legislative bodies and committees since 1876 were decreed inadequate for the dignity of the Columbia Association.
Thursday night, Aug. 14, at the CA meeting, dignity disappeared with a bang. At Speakout, two residents from Town Center and from Hickory Ridge attacked an absent Council member. His crime was a letter referred to by the speakers but not read. Of course, any resident has a right to say anything at Speakout, however nasty or petty.
The follow-up was less appropriate. Chairman Coffman had, a few minutes earlier, informed another speaker who wanted an answer to her presentation, that it was Council policy not to respond immediately to issues residents raise at Speakout. Now, he and Council member Donna Rice took up the cudgels and denounced the absent member, declaring his "sin" as unacceptable and dissociating themselves publicly from the unpublished letter.
The offending letter had still not been made public. The Council's collegiality withered and apparently their policy of discussing personnel and personal matters in private only applies when they want it to. But then, they are all honorable men and women.
Henry D. Shapiro
Miss Smith would approve park plan
It was both interesting and ironic to see the juxtaposition of the letters by John J. Snyder ("Time to face facts on sources of crime") about crime and violence in Columbia's village centers and Robert J. Moon ("Hire top firm to plan park on Blandair") about the opportunities presented by development of the Smith farm (Blandair) in the Aug. 17 edition of the Sun.
In the early 1970s, Elizabeth Smith told me of her concerns about the design and construction of Columbia's villages. She had expressed those concerns to community leaders, as well, but, sadly, they dismissed her, often labeling her as "anti-Columbia" or even as "paranoid."
She was concerned about the safety and welfare of the other residents of the community, particularly those who had purchased their homes. Now that Miss Smith's long-forgotten prediction has come to pass, community leaders see the need to solve the problem.
Mr. Snyder points to the heart of the solution. "The basic work of proper background checks of rental applicants and swift evictions for lease violations must be supported by county [state and federal] agencies." Without such support, the problem will not be solved.
Had Miss Smith not refused offers to sell Blandair for development, the east side villages of Columbia would not now be "presented with the greatest opportunity in their history," to quote Mr. Moon.
I have publicly commended the work of the Blandair Planning Committee. I feel that, given the charge of planning a regional park, the committee took all interests into account and made the best compromise possible. Miss Smith would approve of the uses the committee recommends for 250 of Blandair's 300 acres - those uses are explicitly or implicitly stated in the trust document she had orally approved.
I see no need to turn over the final planning to a national park planning and design organization, as Mr. Moon recommends. Such an organization might prove to be valuable as a consultant, as the need arises. I believe that if all groups engaged in the concept areas identified by the committee and who have expressed an interest in plans for Blandair would work together, the end result would be more satisfactory to the residents of Howard County.
I think such a cooperative enterprise would have benefits beyond Blandair - it would help to foster more cooperation of these groups, in general.
Byron C. Hall, Jr.
The writer is chairman of the Blandair Foundation.